As the title says, we rode our faithful motorbike between the towns of Tuy Hòa and Qui Nhơn, hugging the coast as much as we could. This meant veering wildly away from the main highways and occasionally going backwards to explore jutting peninsulas. What should have been a smooth, quick 40 kilometre drive, became a much longer, occasionally rough, far more rewarding 80 kilometre drive.
Seafood and Beaches
Our first stop wasn’t very far from Qui Nhơn. The girl who worked at the counter of our hotel had taken a liking to Caroline and they had been messaging each other in Vietnamese, with Caroline learning a lot of Vietnamese in the process. Her name was Linh, and she invited us to visit her house.
We arrived in the tiny fishing village of An Phu (I think) and met Linh’s family: mother, brother, three of seven sisters, and brother-in-law. Nobody spoke English, but they had excellent Wi-fi (despite living in a very modest beach shack) and we made good use of Google Translate. We were invited to share the morning’s catch: prawns, crabs and mantis shrimps.
Our drive took us up into the hills of the Xuan Canh Village area, where the landscape was essentially a huge sand dune covered in pine trees. Rolling around these roads brought us to a few dead ends, but it also swept along several miles of pristine, deserted beach. A helpful man in a village gave us directions through a pine forest to a lonely swimming area.
Da Dia Reef
Đá Dĩa Reef is a small but interesting 50 metres of volcanic rock. Yes, yes, I know. Only geologists are interested in rocks. But what if I told you that these rocks came with a tale of pirates?
Many years ago, there lived a very rich person. There were no banks or investment opportunities at the time, so this rich person did what any sensible rich person would do given the circumstances: he hid his accumulated fortune in a coastal cove in Vietnam. Assuming it was safe, he left it there, and that is the last we will ever hear of the rich person.
Always seeking loose booty, pirates eventually discovered the location of the hidden treasure. Now, in my humble opinion, the next step is where the pirates went wrong: instead of simply taking the treasure and spending it on grog and debauchery, they decided to gather up lots of ‘wooden fuels’ and set the area on fire.
The fuel they managed to find proved to be excellent. So excellent, in fact, that it burned for several days and nights. If only the pirates had taken a moment to realise what they had found. They could have sold this new miracle fuel and made a tidy profit. Alas, even if they had considered this plan, they were never able to implement it: one day, randomly, the fire exploded, sending the pirates hurtling into the air. And that is the last we will ever hear of the pirates.
The following day, the treasure disappeared. And that is the last we will ever hear of the treasure.
Emerging from the explosion was the site we see today: polygonal rock columns. That (just that, no other reason aside from the legend I just told you) is why the name of the site is called Đá Dĩa (‘stone bowls’), because the columns look like stacks of hexagonal dining plates.
If you lost me at the end, I understand. I think the person who invented the legend got lazy halfway through and decided that ‘making sense’ was not high on his priority list.
The more scientific explanation of the rocks takes place millions of years ago, before pirates roamed the coasts of Vietnam. A series of volcanic eruptions created a lava flow that was suddenly frozen upon hitting the cold Pacific Ocean. Thermal contractions caused the molten basalt flows to crack into polygonal shapes, which over time began to sink and form columns.
Onward to Quy Nhon
From Đá Dĩa Reef, the road led past more coastal fishing villages and hilly passes. Large fishing nets hung from poles offshore, and on the many sandy beaches sat hundreds of coracles containing fishing nets: some rigged with motors, some with paddles strapped to the front.
The town of Qui Nhơn is all ready to be a tourist mega-beach, but for whatever reason tourists don’t flock here. We drove along the beautiful, rubbish-free, sandy harbourfront, and saw exactly zero people swimming in the clear blue water. Maybe because it was a Sunday? All I know is, if you had a beach that beautiful in a city that size in New Zealand, you would only see it empty during a natural disaster.
Lining the beach are kung-fu statues, products of the town’s bi-annual martial arts festival and its (convoluted and confusing) history of traditional fighting.